Sun Hung Kai Properties

Minister shrugs off blame for housing fiasco

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 12:00am

Former government estate 'now in the hands of developers'

The housing minister yesterday avoided accepting responsibility for the planned demolition of the Hunghom Peninsula property development in a written statement to Legco.

Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung instead reminded legislators that the waterfront estate was now owned by property developers.

He failed to mention what blame he was prepared to shoulder, if any, for failing to prohibit the developers from pulling down the estate. The demolition has been stalled by opposition from environmental groups.

Mr Suen was replying to a question filed by Choy So-yuk, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, who asked the minister whether he would share any responsibility for the controversy.

The government initially developed the estate as a subsidised housing project but later sold the project to a joint venture comprising New World Development and Sun Hung Kai Properties.

The estate was sold after the government suspended its home ownership scheme two years ago in a move purportedly aimed at stabilising the ailing property market.

The joint venture subsequently said it wanted to demolish the estate to clear the land for a luxury property development.

Malcolm Broom, an assistant director of environmental protection, said authorities were talking with the developer about how to handle waste in the event the buildings were demolished.

Dr Broom said the question of whether the developer would be charged for dumping waste depended on when new legislation on waste charges took effect.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth has launched a campaign to try to stop the demolition.

About 10 representatives of the group yesterday protested outside Legco.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union said its members planned to use the incident as a discussion point with their students.